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Thoughtful Gardening [Hardcover]

Robin Lane Fox


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Book by Fox, Robin Lane

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Amazon.com: 2.6 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gardening stories and more Dec 6 2010
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The author is an academic historian whose other lifelong passion is gardening. Drawing on his 40 years of experience writing a gardening column for London's Financial Times, his travels to gardens around the world, and his own decades of practical gardening, Robin Lane Fox presents a series of essays on gardening and gardens, and he often expands into history, people, and political asides. While I do not always agree with him (he seems a little misogynistic at times, and he is a strong advocate for fox hunting), his stories are entertaining and his gardening wisdom is spot-on. I especially like the color photos...not too many, but what is there is beautiful. My favorite is the photo of his own home in the Cotswolds.

Thoughtful Gardening is a book for truly passionate gardeners. Casual gardeners may find it a bit intense...or it may expand their horizons and light a spark.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars charming book Oct. 5 2011
By C. Mathis - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
love this book - has good tips and told in a wonderfully charming way. I would recommend it to any gardener - experienced or new.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Radically Conservative View of Contemporary Gardening -- Less Thoughtful than Antediluvian Jan. 1 2012
By Katherine Seymour - Published on Amazon.com
Robin Lane Fox, a teacher of ancient history at Oxford University and a long-time gardening columnist for the Financial Times has collected a set of columns into an erudite and passionate celebration of what he calls "thoughtful gardening" -- defined simply as the application of a refined eye to flower gardening." Using finely drawn portraits of remarkable gardens and gardeners in Europe and the United States and deeply felt judgments about favorite trees, shrubs and perennials, Lane Fox describes his lifelong education in plants.

The problem is that his learning is rooted very deeply into the past. His columns dealing with invasive species and global warming are perhaps most perplexing. He chastises the United States for its "war on invasives" singling out many invasives (nandinas, callery pears, Russian olives) as among his favorites and undeserving targets of American wrath. He acknowledges that plant populations are forever changing, not static, but seems unaware that many native species have evolved in their niches over millennia and have established mutually beneficial relationships with other plants and animals that can be, are are being, destroyed by the introduction of aggressive exotics.

His dismissal of global warming is similarly overdetermined. He argues, correctly, that noone has any idea of what the impact of global warming will be like over the next few generations. But he goes on to argue that the whole issue is overwrought and warns that scares "can be multiplied especially if there are gardening practices that deep down, the scarers dislike." Thus, he reasons, global warming is a crisis exploited and manipulated by those who "hate lawns and flower gardens" and wish to introduce less coddled and more pedestrian massed grasses -- "pretending to be a prairie" -- in Lane Fox's view.

His portraits of fellow gardeners can be particularly cutting, as when he praises Rosemary Verie (until her death "the queen of English gardening') but unnecessarily describes Verie's aging, where "a bottle or two of spirits used to help her through the dark, solitary evenings" in Gloucestershire. He portrays Christopher Lloyd as one of the "most thoughtful of gardeners" but also notes Lloyd's own dismissal of Lane Fox's authority as a horticulturist because he was "only a university lecturer at Oxford." But Lane Fox gets the last word, describing a scene in which Lloyd, in his late seventies, broke from a tour of Kew Gardens to embrace a young male gardener, digging with shirt off, and kissed him "wholeheartedly." Lane Fox continues, "shortly after, the tails on his big topiary peacock birds at Dixter were docked by an intruder. Many of us enjoyed speculating who had done it and why."

Lane Fox is consistent in at least one respect. He constantly rues the political correctness that has limited his favorite "sport" -- foxhunting. And he makes plain that, in England, garden writing too is a blood sport.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful? Not! Oct. 7 2013
By karen e. aumann - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A great disapointment! British, gardening in alkaline soil which I can't relate to but worse - definately anti-environmental and misogynistic! I threw it out.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable, Informative, Engaging, Erudite Feb. 10 2012
By Philip A. Bailly - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
This book has worthwhile information about various cultivars of border plants that grow in the U.K. Sometimes one wonders how applicable the information would be elsewhere. The author often expresses preferences for various cultivars due to their appearance, especially flower color. I think some of it might have 'universal' application and some of it might just be his personal opinion with which some might disagree. I am not sure he has seen every cultivar of every species and compared them and selected the best ones even though he conveys the idea he has identified the best ones.

Sometimes while reading it, I wish it had been organized alphabetically like an encyclopedia with entries for various ornamental cultivars and cultural information and gardens worth visiting. Because it is instead organized in short chapters, it is more of a book for leisure reading which is at times a shame because it would have value organized as more of a reference. One can rely on the index for that to some extent if desired.

There's some British humor, for example, about intrusive rabbits and badgers. While I found clever humor about their nocturnal mating habits rather contrived and forced, greater fans of British humor might enjoy it and other passages of dry humor, sometimes about saucy behavior.

It provides a smattering of information about appealing combinations of plants in herbaceous borders and very little information about topics such as garden layout. The author doesn't offer much in terms of spatial, 3-dimensional aspects of gardens that could enhance the information considerably and make you feel like you were strolling through and experiencing some of the gardens. It's often more about cultivars than about gardens.

Robin Lane Fox eruditely and convincingly writes about his passion for ornamental plants and depth of gardening experience while injecting the text with occasional intellectual discourse, just as one would expect from a Oxford don and passionate gardener who includes photos of himself gardening in a blazer.

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